Two women in their 80s die of suspected West Nile virus in Petah Tikva

Beilinson Hospital says it is waiting for test results from lab to definitively diagnose two women, as well as three other patients who may have virus

Illustrative image of a mosquito (nechaev-kon; iStock by Getty Images)
Illustrative image of a mosquito (nechaev-kon; iStock by Getty Images)

Two women in their 80s died on Saturday of what is suspected as West Nile fever, Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva announced.

The hospital said that it was waiting for lab results to give a definitive answer. Three more patients were suspected of contracting the disease.

Two of them were discharged in good condition and one was still hospitalized. The hospital was waiting for test results to diagnose them.

After several new cases of the virus were reported in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, the Health Ministry released a statement on Friday saying 19 people had contracted West Nile fever since the beginning of May.

This was a large spike compared to the last few years, as Health Ministry figures show there were only six cases in the country in January-to-June last year. During the same period in 2022, there were two cases, and in 2021 there were five. An outbreak in 2018 saw dozens of cases.

“In order to minimize exposure to mosquitos, the Health Ministry recommends using repellents and anti-mosquitos gadgets as well as turning on fans wherever you are,” the ministry said.

Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva (Courtesy)

It added that the virus was a risk mainly between June and November but that it had appeared early this year, most likely because of global warming.

People in the center of Israel are especially at risk of contracting the disease as the area’s high humidity creates an ideal breeding ground for mosquitos.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the Health Ministry said mosquitos carrying the virus had been found in Ramat Gan and that local authorities had been instructed on how to deal with them.

Those infected with West Nile virus typically experience flu-like symptoms and recover within a week, but in some cases the disease is fatal. While younger people are usually able to fight off the disease, the elderly are at higher risk of dying from it.

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